Performance Management - Lessons Learned from the 2008 NCAA Frozen Four College Hockey Tournament
I don't usually blog about sports and their connections to the business world… I'll leave that to Kris Dunn over at the HR Capitalist Blog – he's a true master at it. However today I think I am going to make an exception.
I am a huge college hockey fan and a lifelong fan of my state's only D-I college hockey program – The University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux. The UND hockey program has a rich tradition of success that is rivaled by few in the league.
For the fourth consecutive year the Fighting Sioux found their way to the Frozen Four – the college hockey equivalent of basketball's Final Four - and for the third consecutive year found itself facing fellow perennial powerhouse Boston College in the opening round.
A quick summary of the game:
The Sioux quickly found themselves trailing by three goals with its senior goaltender – the leader in the NCAA in goals allowed per game and save percentage – having an uncharacteristically bad showing and failing to stop shots that had been routine saves for him all season. With 45 minutes remaining in the game things were far from lost for UND, but something needed to be done – and fast.
At the restaurant full of Sioux fans where I was watching the game cries immediately began to be heard for the goaltender to be replaced with his backup. It was clear to see that he was not on top of his game and hard to imagine that his performance would suddenly improve.
However our cries fell upon deaf ears (TV screens) and the floundering goaltender remained on the ice. The straw that broke the camel's back came with 15 seconds remaining in the first period as Boston College scored another seemingly weak goal leaving UND down 0-4 after one period.
Things never turned around for the Sioux and for the third consecutive year UND gave up six goals (6-6-6 mark of the beast???) en route to a 6-1 devastating loss.
I had the urge to write this blog last night at about midnight, but as my emotions were still running high I decided to follow my advice from a previous post and wait until today to avoid an unwanted amygdala hijacking where I might spout out something I regret (and the search engines immortalize.)
So what does all this have to do with business and the world of performance management? In my opinion… everything.
Yesterday's hockey game serves as a great illustration of the effects a poorly performing team member can have on an organization. Poor performers drag an organization down and hinder its ability to meet its goals and objectives. In the process these individuals destroy morale and bring down the performance of others.
After quickly allowing three weak goals the loss of team morale for the Sioux was palpable. However the poor performers were allowed to remain in the game and it was clear that UND had little confidence in its ability to win the game. The final two periods were a mere formality.
I firmly believe that confidence in one's own abilities and his or her organization's ability to accomplish its goals is paramount to success. When hope is lost and morale has vanished the chances of success are slim at best. This is the price an organization pays for keeping poor performers on the bus – they bring a group of otherwise talented individuals down with them.
Is it fair to blame failure on one individual? Certainly not - in sports as well as business victories and losses are experienced as a team. Several Sioux players had poor outings and that certainly contributed to their misfortune. However one of the poor performers happened to be in arguably the most important position on the team – the goaltender. Without solid performance in this position the likelihood of success is greatly diminished.
On an organizational team there are similar positions – project manager, team leader, etc. While everyone on the team has an important role, certain positions are crucial to the realization of success. Poor performance in these positions equates to poor performance for the team and cannot be tolerated. For the sake of the team and the organization these individuals must be removed at the moment it becomes apparent they cannot perform up to expectations. UND failed to do so and it suffered the consequences.
In the nightcap of the Frozen Four semifinals Notre Dame took on a heavily favored Michigan squad. Michigan found itself in a similar situation to the Sioux – down 0-3 in the first period. During intermission Michigan head coach Red Berenson pulled his starting goalie (also one of the top tenders in the league) and replaced him with his backup who had only played in five games all season. Michigan came back to tie the game 4-4 to send it into overtime.
Notre Dame managed to pull off a major upset by winning 5-4 in overtime, so my example doesn't quite have the poetic justice I would have hoped for, but I think my point is clear. Removing the poorly performing team member gave Michigan the opportunity to come back and have a real shot at winning whereas keeping the incumbent goaltender in the game wouldn't have.
Are you tolerating poor performers on your team?
Why are you allowing them to keep your organization from reaching its full potential?
Now go Maximize Possibility!
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Chris Young helps organizations Maximize Possibility through talent management, cultural transformation, and strategic intervention.p Bring Chris in today!